Vicar's Blog ~ May 2019
Happy Easter! You will know that we have been spending time and money on the organ, and while we had hoped it would be ready for Easter Day, it wasn’t quite ready, but it very soon will be. The weekend of 18/19 May will be the time to celebrate its inauguration, and we have a free concert and celebration on Saturday 18th at 7.30 when our organist friends will come and play, and then the following day, on Sunday 19th, there will be a special Choral Evensong with an enhanced choir and Bishop Rob will come to be with us, and dedicate the newly restored organ. Do please support, and enjoy these momentous events. Thanks to Joy Heywood, who has been delving into our archives, there is an intreating story to tell, to which the restoration work of the last six months or so is simply the latest chapter. You may remember these last two months we have told you that the choir has it’s centenary this year, as does the PCC and Electoral Roll! Well now we turn to the history of our organ, which carries back to May 1915, when at a Vestry Meeting attended by Mr. Davis, the Organist and Mr. Trusler the Sub-organist and Sacristan, the following was minuted:
“The condition of the Organ came up for discussion, and it was felt by all to be an inopportune time to press for a new instrument, but certain repairs are imperative which will probably involve a new action and Mr. C.T.Davis and Mr. W.T.Trusler were asked to make the necessary inquiries.”
Nearly a year later, in February, 1916 there was an update:
“We have much pleasure in stating that a sum of £250 has been promised by the Carnegie Trust towards renovating the Organ at St. Mary’s. The money will be paid after the necessary remainder has been voluntarily raised. The Trust will fix a reasonable time for the completion of the work after the expiration of the War.”
There was no further mention of the Organ project until March, 1920:
“It was also suggested, that, as a thankoffering for victory, the present organ, which has become worn-out and ineffective, shall be thoroughly overhauled and the worn-out parts replaced by new ones, or a new instrument provided. It will be remembered that the Carnegie Trust promised a grant of £250 towards our scheme. A letter has recently been received that the balance of the cost must be raised by the end of the year, 1921, and the grant then claimed, otherwise it will lapse. Many of the parishioners feel that we must be up and doing, and agree that our future organ shall be regarded as our Thankoffering for Victory and Peace. The scheme will soon be decided upon, and the cost ascertained. But we may rest assured that the cost will be considerable, especially now that prices have advanced so much, therefore, a parishioner, who wishes to remain anonymous, fully realising this, and also that the stipulated time wherein the Carnegie grant must be claimed is slipping by, has generously given £100. We hope that other generous gifts will follow.”
It is interesting therefore to note that as we commemorated the armistice in 1918 in November 2018, almost immediately afterwards we began the work that is so nearly complete. We are running a similar path a hundred years on! So, in May 1920:
“We have the specification (from Messrs. Bishop & Son for the reconstruction of the organ) and it was our intention to reproduce it in this number of the Parish Magazine, but it is of such a technical character that we fear very few of the parishioners would be any the wiser…. We will therefore content ourselves with saying that the present organ, when brought to S.Mary’s over 37 years ago, was a second-hand, patched-up instrument; a great deal of money has been spent on it from time to time to keep it in going order, but most of the internal arrangements are now entirely worn out, and either a complete renovation or an entirely new instrument has become an absolute necessity. The cost of a new instrument is now prohibitive, so the specification provides for a complete renovation of the present instrument, and the bringing of it up to date in every feature. The cost of this, if put in hand without delay, will be £890. But if we delay the cost will probably be advanced.
“Towards the £890, the Carnegie Trust have kindly promised £275, provided the balance be raised and the work completed by the end of December, 1921. Towards the balance, we have raised by various efforts £103; an anonymous gift of £100 has been received, and these two amounts, viz; a total of £203, have been paid.
“Further, Mr. J.Maitland has kindly promised £50, and Mr. H.T. Hudson £15. These sums make a total of £543, thus leaving a balance of £346 still to be raised.”
It is all quite familiar isn’t it!? But we did not know that our organ was so closely tied up with the First World War. Back in 1920 a sub-committee was formed to deal with the organ question. John Maitland was the People’s Warden from 1897 to 1909. His son is named on the War Memorial; he was killed in a flying accident while training for the R.F.C. in 1917. Then in October, 1921:
“As far as our Parish Magazine is concerned, the Organ Repair Fund has been allowed to ‘go on its own’ during the last two or three months, but the time allotted to us to raise the balance of the money require, roughly £50, is getting very short – there are only three more months! We refuse to believe that we are going to be beaten. The sum is not large, thanks to those who have already contributed, and now we will make the final effort, and we appeal to those who have not yet given to give soon all they can.”
In December, 1921 it is recorded that the choir did their bit:
“It was a very happy thought on the part of the members of the Choir that they, in their corporate capacity, should make some effort to help raise the necessary funds towards the re-building of the organ, and the wish crystallised into a most delightful Musical Entertainment which was given at the North Middlesex School for Girls, in Waverley Road, by kind permission of Miss Webster and Miss Miller. The members of the Choir and a few outside friends gave an exquisite rendering of ‘The Mikado’, which delighted the packed audience. The financial result was as gratifying as the performance: £32-12-10.
“We wish to tender our best thanks to the members of the Choir and their friends for their successful effort, to Mr. and Mrs. Haycraft for kindly permitting the practices to be held at their house, and Miss Webster and Miss Miller for the use of their Hall.”
And then, later in the same parish magazine:
“The most notable and gratifying event of the past month, as far as our Church and parish are concerned, has been the closing of the fund towards the reconstruction of the organ. The total cost of the work is £890, towards which The Carnegie United Kingdom Trust promised £250 on condition that the balance of the money would be raised and the work completed by December 31st, 1921. Both these conditions will be complied with, for it has been promised by the organ builders that the organ will be ready for use on Christmas Day. It will thus be seen that £640 has been raised locally. As a matter of fact, we have raised a few pounds more, but that amount will be swallowed up by expenses incurred by the Churchwardens for extra heating and lighting in the Church while the work has been going on. Electric light and firing have been used all day right into the late evening for several weeks.
“Some people in the parish regarded the reconstruction of the organ and the bringing of it up to date as a work of supererogation. It has, they said, only been in the Church thirty-nine years, and considerable sums of money have been spent on it during that time. True, it would have been a work of supererogation if the instrument had been new when it was brought here, but only the case was new, while the whole of the mechanism was second-hand, having been brought here from some place in the Midlands; and that is the reason why so much money has been spent on it from time to time. How old it was we do not know, but we do know that a new action had to be put into it nine years after its arrival. These facts amply justify the steps taken to re-construct the instrument and bring it up to date.”
Supererogation is not a word one hears very often these days! To spare anyone’s blushes it means, something beyond what duty requires. What is interesting here is that nearly a hundred years ago, the provenance of the organ was not known, but it was known to have been second hand. The total cost was £890, and a conservative estimate of that in modern times, is about £40,000 (see www.measuringworth.com). Around three quarters of the money was raised locally, let’s say around £30,000. Which incidentally, is what we as a congregation have raised towards the current job, which is costing around £80,000 of which around £50,000 came from the legacy of Muriel Maxwell.
A month later, January, 1922, the residual impact (much less relevant today) for heat and light while the work took place was mentioned:
“A very happy and seasonable idea came to Miss Dowse and Miss Hart, to organise a Carol Party on behalf of Church Funds. The idea crystallised into practical results, for, by going round from house to house on two evenings before Christmas Day, a true idea of the meaning of Christmas was given to the general public in very pleasing form and thereby a sum of £12-7s-1d was added to the Church Funds. The money is most acceptable because the re-construction of the Organ has involved a heavy expenditure in heating and lighting which is not provided for in the estimate. Fires and a considerable amount of electric light have been used directly on the work on most days for the past two months, from about 8a.m. to 8.pm. and very often later. We thank the organisers and every member of the Carol Party and congratulate them on the splendid result.”
Finally, in March, 1922, the Final Accounts for the reconstruction of the organ are given:
“A cheque for £840 has been sent to Bishop & Sons on account, £50 being retained in order that the new action may be tested by use, and against the probability that some adjustments may be found necessary.
“A cordial vote of thanks was accorded to Mr. W.T. Trusler for the loan and use of an American organ during the period of renovation.”
I wonder what our successors will be writing in another hundred years time, before which we hope, pray and expect, no major work will be required!